Harm Reduction Program raises awareness of the growing overdose crisis

On March 27th, the United Way, Safe ‘n’ Sound and Public Health were at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market to highlight the growing overdose crisis in the City of Owen Sound and to raise funds through donations.

The public was invited to take a carnation walk-the-block around the 8th and 9th street bridges.  They then dropped the flowers into the river to symbolize the loss of those who have died, gone permanently from our community due to opioid overdoses. 

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Gelja Sheardown attended marking the one-year anniversary of the fatal overdose death of her husband Barrett Warwick. “He worked seven days a week, he was a wonderful father, he was a wonderful husband and then he was gone,” Sheardown reflected.  

Today, Sheardown is raising her three children, including two-year-old twins, alone.

“With over 30 overdose deaths during the pandemic, we need to mourn and we need to act and act swiftly,” said Toni McGregor Executive Director of Safe ‘n’ Sound. “Over the past nine months, Safe ‘n’ Sound has disposed of over 33,000 sharps/needles through a Sharps Disposal Program.”

“When Gelja approached us, wanting to tell her story and tell Barrett’s story, we knew we could offer the whole community an opportunity to mourn and grieve these losses,” explained Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director of United Way Bruce Grey.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit was also be in attendance with Naloxone kits and information for the community providing a concrete understanding of the current Opioid Epidemic in Grey Bruce, and to understand what has been done to date on the matter.

“I want to congratulate Gelja for coming forward with her story. Just doing that alone has saved someone’s life.  Open conversations like this, along with kindness and understanding will be a main contributing factor to help manage the Opioid Epidemic,” says Ian Reich, Harm Reduction Manager at the Grey Bruce Health Unit.  “We must all be grounded in the understanding that addiction and mental health do not need to be a hidden issue, rather one that we as a community, wrap our arms around and embrace those struggling with kindness and empathy to make sure they understand; we care, and we are here for you, and it is safe to come forward.”

We urge people that use drugs to do so as safely as possible by following some Harm Reduction strategies:

Avoid using alone.

  – When using with someone else, avoid using at the same time.
  – Call the Overdose Prevention Line at 1-888-688-6677 (NORS) if you must use alone

Avoid mixing different drugs.

  –  Mixing drugs, including alcohol, increases the risk of overdose.

Go slow.

  –  Use smaller amounts and do test doses to check the strength of the drug.

Know your tolerance.

   –  If using after a period of not using – use less.

Get overdose prevention training and carrying a Naloxone kit.

Overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the Emergency Department.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from simple possession charges when 911 is called for an overdose.

The Overdose Prevention Line, 1-888-688-6677, is a vital phone service for people that are using drugs alone. It provides a live, safe contact while using alone. An operator will stay on the line with the user while the drug is used. In the event the user becomes unresponsive, the Prevention Line operator will call 911 to make sure help arrives.

If you know of a toxic drug, please report it by calling 211. The operator will fill out a form and it will then go to Public Health to action and alert the community.

If you have kids, please make sure they are aware of the lethality of the street drug supply at the moment.

Naloxone and safe drug use equipment is available at the Health Unit M-F 8:30am-4:00pm, and through our participating sites. Call the Health Unit for details, or call 211.

For additional Addiction Services:

·       ConnexOntario 1-866-531-2600
·       Withdrawal Management/RAAM Clinic (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic) 519-376-5666
·       G&B House 519-376-9495
·       Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre 519-371-0007
·       CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services 519-371-3642
·       Mental Health Crisis Line Grey Bruce 1-877-470-5200
·       Overdose Prevention Line: 1-888-853-8542
·       https://www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca/Your-Health/Harm-Reduction
·       If unsure – call 211